Cover image for Not fade away : a short life well lived
Not fade away : a short life well lived
Shames, Laurence.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
[Emmaus, Pa.] : Rodale ; [New York, N.Y.?] : Distributed to the book trade by St. Martin's Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
224 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RC280.S8 B377 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
RC280.S8 B377 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Some people are born to lead and destined to teach--not by precept, but by the example of living life to the fullest. Peter Barton was that kind of person.

He protested at Columbia University in the 1960s, played soul music at Harlem's Apollo Theater, spent time as a ski bum and a craps dealer, and eventually emerged from Harvard Business School to become a central figure in the creation of cable television. In the prime of his life, happily married and the father of three young children, Peter came face to face with the biggest challenge in a life filled with risk-taking and direction-changing. Diagnosed with cancer, he began a journey both frightening and appalling, yet also full of wonder and discovery.

Not Fade Away recreates that journey in the intimate and alternating voices of Peter and of Laurence Shames--two men close in age yet who've chosen vastly different lives. Together, in a spirit of deepening friendship, they relive the high points of years that embodied the hopes and strivings of an entire generation. With courage, candor, and even humor, they search for meaning in Peter's unflinching confrontation with mortality.

In life, Peter was an overachieving Everyman, a vibrant spirit who showed his peers just how much is possible. In his dying, similarly, he redefines the quietly heroic tasks of seeking clarity in the midst of pain and loss; of breaking through to a highly personal, secular faith; and of achieving peace at last.

Author Notes

Laurence Shames was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1951, and graduated summa cum laude from NYU, in 1972. He became a journalist, and was published in magazines such as Playboy, Outside, Saturday Review, and Vanity Fair. In 1982, he was named Ethics columnist of Esquire, and also made a contributing editor.

In 1991, Shames co- wrote a national non-fiction best-seller on the Mafia called Boss of Bosses, with two FBI agents. This success afforded him the opportunity to write fiction full-time, and he has since written ten Key West comic thrillers. He won the CWA Last Laugh Dagger Award for the funniest crime novel of 1995 with Sunburn.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

"I'm hardly the first person to notice that there is only the present, constantly," writes Barton in this extraordinary memoir. "The present moment is lived, and relieved; written, and rewritten. Every previous version still inhabits it." What gives this insight and the many others that follow uncommon power is the ever present fact that Barton, a pioneering entrepreneur in the cable television industry, was dying of stomach cancer as he wrote them. Alternating chapters with mystery writer Shames (The Naked Detective), Barton, who died in September, 2002, at 51, offers us-and his wife and three children-his final rewrite of a life filled with the optimism and idealism of his generation. Barton tells us how it feels to die while the party is still raging, offering us glimpses of a life that packed in everything from being a professional ski bum to working as an aide to New York State governor Hugh Carey to huge success as a visionary businessman (Barton helped found MTV, among other achievements). Readers will be knocked out by his honesty and his utter lack of self-pity or sentimentality. The "gift" of terminal cancer, according to Barton, is that "it doesn't kill you all at once. It gives you time to set your house in order.... It gives you time to think, to sum things up." Setting his house in order included taking his family for a balloon ride at dawn. Summing up what matters, he reminds us that it is the large and small moments of pleasure and love, those very present moments, that redeem us in the end. This is a very beautiful book about how to live. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Readers familiar with Liberty Media (the Discovery Channel, QVC, Encore, etc.) may know Barton as one of its founders and its CEO. Baby boomer Barton (1951-2002) appeared to have it all until he was diagnosed with gastrointestinal cancer at age 51. Here, joined by Shames (formerly an ethics columnist for Esquire and Barton's friend), he discusses his life and his coming to terms with his impending, painful, and inevitable death after having lived as an overachiever in the "arrogance of health." Only an extraordinary human being could have written many of the lines in this book, e.g., "My disease has been good for me....It has made me more accepting, gentler....I'm growing unafraid." The facts of Barton's life-how a talented young man founded a multibillion-dollar media empire and retired early-are certainly interesting, but the book is more an attempt to let Barton's family and friends know what he thought and what he valued. He wanted this book to energize young people to "get excited, get hyper, about their possibilities"-in a word, to give hope. The unusual writing style makes it a pleasure to read, and despite the subject matter, there is no sentimentality here, just lots of insights. Recommended especially for public libraries.-James Swanton, Harlem Hosp. Lib., New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Not Fade Away A Short Life Well Lived Chapter One You can tell a lot about a person by his nickname, right? Mine's Hawk. I've had that moniker for as long as I can remember, and it still tickles me. I just love the word. It conjures images of soaring flight against a cloudless sky. It implies a majestic independence, a raptor's uncompromising realism .... Except that's not the kind of hawk I'm named after. I'm named after the Studebaker Hawk, a market flop of a sport coupe that was manufactured in the middle 1950s. I just loved the name of the thing. It seemed to summarize all that was cool and jaunty. Besides, it's really more fitting that I was named after a cat As a kid, I didn't soar, I rode around. I fantasized about automobiles, but what I rode was bicycles or motorized dinghies that I cobbled together from spare parts. Mine was a down-to-earth, nuts and bolts, tinkering kind of childhood. Then again, kids are always soaring. For them, there's no boundary between the down-to-earth and the heavenly. Mud is a miracle. Snow is pure chilled joy. A pile of leaves is a sacred altar. Why do we lose that feeling, that sense of wonder, for so much of our lives? Anyway, I was born in Washington, D.C., but while I was still an infant the family moved to Painted Post, New York, a tiny upstate town complete with maple trees and dappled cows and a beautiful white steeple. And pregnant women! Pregnant women carrying toddlers; pregnant women pushing strollers. There were a million kids to play with. Nice kids, nasty kids, gentle kids, bullies -- all of human nature was represented in our little neighborhood. Our family, in almost every way, was typical. My mother, in those years, was a housewife. My father worked too hard and wasn't around as much as I'd have liked. We were neither rich nor poor; I don't think I knew those categories existed. Everyone was middle class. Life got better for everyone together. One year there was television, the next year there was color television. One year Dad drove a shiny new Dodge, the next year there was a DeSoto with even bigger tail fins. Kids don't know from economics, but here's the lesson I absorbed: Money needed to be worked for but not fretted over. It would appear when required. In the meantime, better to climb trees and build snowmen. In other words, to live. But I want to tell you about Painted Post's one claim to fame. It is very near the Corning Glass factory, where my father worked. In case there's anyone who doesn't remember, Corning did not begin with the fiber optics business. In the 1950s, Corning manufactured plates and platters and Pyrex pans. What the company was best known for, though, was casserole dishes. Everybody had them, remember? Their trademark was an abstract blue flower. Since my dad worked for Corning, my mom had every casserole shape ever made. We had one for stew. We had one for soup. We had one for potatoes. If they'd made one for individual spaghetti strands, we'd have had that one too! I can still see the metal cradles that the dishes sat in at the table ... But wait -- why am I going on about casseroles? I think it's because the approach of death has made me realize that there are no unimportant details in life. That childhood sense of wonder is somehow coming back to me. How can I put it? Things, and the meanings that they have, are being reunited in my heart. Those old casseroles -- maybe they're just chipped and battered pans, but for me they're connected with incredibly precious things, giant notions like Mother, Kitchen, Family Meals. So cut me some slack if I get nostalgic now and then over trivialities. The thing is, they don't seem trivial to me. I've come to feel that the big things in life are best understood by way of small things. Ignore the small ones, and the big ones just seem like fancy words, slogans without the truth of something you really know, and really feel. Who knows how or when a disease is actually born? Who knows what cancer is like in its appalling infancy, when the first disastrous cell divisions are just starting to occur, before detection is possible? For all I know, there may be something beautiful in the process. Under a microscope, in time-lapse, it might look like flowers opening, mushrooms burgeoning. Maybe that sounds creepy-but just because something's bad for us, that doesn't mean it can't be beautiful on its own terms. Nature is full of gorgeous and deadly things. Whatever my disease's early history was like, here's how I first learned of it: My doctor called me on my cell phone. It is Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1998. I'm forty-seven, and I've been supposedly "retired" for a year and a half. But I'm as busy as I've ever been. I've started foundations. I've been teaching a seminar in business school. I sit on boards of various corporations and advise many friends who are still in midcareer. I feel a joyful obligation to help out where I can. And, to tell the truth, I still love the action. Today I'm in Silicon Valley, at an informal board meeting at Yahoo. They've asked me to become a director. This is flattering, but I pass -- mainly because their business model scares me. How can they actually make money? That's what we're talking about on this particular afternoon: formulating an economic model for a big aggregation of e-commerce businesses. This excites me. What I like is creating things, adding value, shaping the big picture. I'm there to brainstorm, to enjoy the company of some really smart people. And to suggest to them some big ideas -- which, I conclude, they're not ready for ... Not Fade Away A Short Life Well Lived . Copyright © by Laurence Shames. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from Not Fade Away: A Short Life Well Lived by Laurence Shames, Peter Barton All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.